Indra Congress
Welcome to Access Theatre
July 9, 2019 By admin

I moved down to SW England in 1980 and on arrival I made a point of identifying and contacting theatre companies working in the area. One unusual venue caught my interest. It was called Sterts and it operated in a rural area of Cornwall, providing opportunities for people in a relatively isolated part of the county to participate in all sorts of creative and cultural activities. Sarah Pym was the general manager and I greatly admired her commitment and administrative skill in running and promoting this unique arts venture. Several years later we were looking for a new general manager at the Barbican Theatre in Plymouth, where I was based at the time. I was intrigued when Sarah applied and delighted that she turned out to be the outstanding and successful candidate. We have been good friends since then.

Time rolls on and in the early 2000’s Sarah found herself back in Cornwall working with an arts promoting agency called The Works. In this capacity Sarah was able to offer support to a fledgling group called Access in East Cornwall. This was an inclusive group of able and disabled people who were exploring ways of working creatively together.

Sarah went to watch them at work and was immediately hooked. She was bowled over by the extraordinary freedom, lack of inhibition and the generosity which this mixed group exhibited towards each other and wanted to support them. Her interest in the group grew to the extent that she became personally involved with their development, becoming the company’s project manager.

At that time the group had no official or legal standing, so Sarah helped them become an Unincorporated Association and to begin more systematically applying for funds. She then guided them to become a registered charitable organisation with a formal board of trustees and to build a structure for the company’s emerging programme of creative and fundraising activities.


Access now meets every Monday at Launceston Town Hall where it is able to take advantage of a large hall space, a stage, kitchen and bar facilities. Here Access grows from strength to strength presenting a wide range of productions in their inimitable style and taking part in festivals around the county. Recent productions range from Dickens’s ‘A Christmas Carol’, a cabaret, a film called ‘I am the song’, celebrating the centenary of Cornish poet Charles Causley, to participation in the Plymouth Flunky Lama Festival!

I visited Access to see for myself and must confess I too was hooked. There is a spontaneity, a joy about the work which is infectious. Most recently I suggested to Sarah that Access becomes part of the Indra network. I know several of my colleagues in Indra, for example Marina in Palestine, have a keen interest in inclusive disability arts practice and it is a great pleasure to welcome Sarah and Access into the Indra family.

The work of Access to enhance the profile and visibility of disabled people is all the more important in the light of statistics that show disability hate crime has risen in the UK by more than 33% over the past year with over 5,000 recorded hate crimes against disabled people.


July 2019